|A hole was blown into this Citadel wall during the 1968 Tet Offensive|
|Shrapnel holes still scar the Citadel's walls|
|Many war damaged buildings are still in ruins|
In the fighting for Hue and the Citadel, communist troops were well supplied, well armed, and well entrenched. In the first days of the fierce battle, the ARVN and small number of US Army troops that faced them were unable to win back the city on their own. So what was the solution for the American generals? Send in the Marines.
Brought in from their base just south of the city in Phu Bai, the US Marines had mainly been fighting in Vietnam’s countryside. To retake Hue, they would face their first urban battle in Vietnam. As they battled through the city, the Marines had to fight their way from house to house, and block to block. Progress was slow, and fighting was heavy. They first battled to retake the south side of the city, and after a rare amphibious crossing of the Perfume River, they moved to attack the heavily fortified Citadel where I am now.
|Reconstruction is underway for this royal walkway|
|The queen mother's tile floor is now exposed to the elements|
Facing massive firepower, the number of NVA and VC casualties was even higher, with an estimated 5,000 dead. Trapped in the citadel in the final days, many had fought to the end. In what had been one of Vietnam’s most beautiful cities, more than half of Hue had been destroyed.
Meandering through the other walled in enclosures, I enter Ta Tra royal hall, an old royal waiting room for the queen mother. On the floor is gorgeous, intricate royal tilework, but above it, there is open sky. Only the building’s frame remains standing, it’s a skeleton of a building now. An engraved sign states, “TA TRA BUILDING WAS SERIOUSLY DAMAGED BY WAR IN 1968 AND BY A TYPHOON IN 1985.”
|An elephant roaming the Citadel? It's tied down. Or is it?|
Leaving the battle scarred section, I stroll over to the Citadel's restored side. Here one part of the royal complex has been transformed into an art university. As I walk past it appears that school is out, since I don’t see any students. The only resident I see inside now, is an elephant! He seemed to be staring right at me, waving his great ears back and forth as I walked past. With tall grass around his feet, I couldn’t tell if he was tethered to anything, or not. I wasn’t about to approach him to find out.
He must have been secured somehow; I can’t imagine an elephant being allowed to roam loose inside the Citadel.